If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

Ask Oppo: Traffic Stop Etiquette

Over the weekend, I had an unfortunate run-in with the local constabulary. The circumstances surrounding the traffic stop are largely irrelevant to the question at hand, but I’ll go ahead and share the details. I was following a large truck through a controlled intersection where the height of the truck and the height of the traffic light conspired to block my view of the signal and I missed the change from green to yellow, thus leaving me in the intersection when the signal went red. The officer who initiated the traffic stop didn’t witness the entire sequence of events as he arrived at the intersection just in time to see me going through the red light. I believe the officer was justified in stopping me and I wouldn’t have faulted him for writing me up either - I should have backed off when I lost view of the signal. After some explanation on my part, he was kind enough to allow me to carry on with a verbal warning.

Having said that, the traffic stop didn’t start so smoothly. When the officer first hit the lights, I couldn’t see anywhere to safely pull over. I was on an overpass with little to no shoulder and I really didn’t want my screw up to block a traffic lane and slow everyone else down. I slowed to about 10 under the posted limit and hit my hazards to indicate that I was going to pull over as soon as it was safe. As soon as we crossed the overpass, there was a decent amount of shoulder and I pulled as far right as possible and stopped at an angle with the front of my car pointed towards the grass. I always pull over at such an angle for the safety of the officer and as an indication that I have no intention to flee, but this must have set off some alarm bells for the one who stopped me. He approached with extreme caution and dismissed the normal pleasantries while jumping straight into demanding answers as to why it took me so long to stop and why I stopped in such a manner. I explained my motives and he appeared to ease up a bit. We were able to conduct our remaining business rather lightheartedly. As he sent me on my way, the officer thanked me for the considering his safety, but left me with the advice to pull over promptly and without the odd angle from now on. I may be misquoting a little but the gist of it was “some officers get a little too jumpy when they see erratic behavior like that.”

I guess I understand that position, but I would still maintain that stopping at such an angle puts two rather large hunks of metal (his car - which is usually stopped at an angle pointed towards traffic - and mine) between him and any vehicle that may drift onto the shoulder during the stop. What say you oppo? Am I wrong in thinking that stopping in such a manner provides additional safety for the officer (and myself if I’m asked to exit the vehicle)? Or does the potential unease of the officer outweigh the potential safety benefits?

Share This Story